The better the grass, the less feed that must be purchased for the animals at Frying Pan Farm Park, so this spring the pasture areas are getting some tender loving care.
Frying Pan Farm Park fences off fields where its cows, goats and sheep eat. After recent soil tests showed the pH level in the fields was lower than ideal – the reading was 5.5 with a preference of 6.2 – Farm Manager Paul Nicholson ordered lime. A lot of it. A ton of lime is being added per acre, and four acres are getting the treatment. Nicholson said lime is slow to work, so it will be a year before its full effect is seen, but grass is coming up, so that’s a good sign. Frying Pan hasn’t put down lime in at least five years, so it was time, Nicholson said.
The pasture area also was aerated and overseeded with a grass seed mix. The Frying Pan animals are partial to orchard grass, clover and perennial rye. At any given time, about 20 animals rely on the pastures for their nourishment, according to Nicholson, and they enjoy the clover and orchard grass.
Frying Pan also takes care of its pasture land by spreading manure and using Fly Predators, beneficial bugs that control flies naturally. Fly Predators stop pest flies by taking over a fly’s cocoon, thereby killing immature pest flies. And if the grass gets too tall, staff mows it.
Park Manager Yvonne Johnson said it’s like growing a big salad for the animals. It’s important to assure the grass is nutritious for the animals, and growing the best grass requires healthy dirt. Johnson said high acidity is a problem east of the Mississippi River, so it’s common to add lime and is part of normal agricultural care in this part of the country.
Johnson pointed out that the more grass the animals eat, the less hay the park has to buy, and that means less work and reduced costs.
Kidwell Farm’s animals are free to see in the barns or in the fields. Frying Pan Farm Park is located at 2739 West Ox Road in Herndon, Va., and is open daily dawn to dusk. Kidwell Farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Author Lori K. Weinraub is a volunteer writer for the Park Authority and a former national journalist for The Associated Press.